I am gay and Catholic. Are you willing to walk in my shoes?

Photo by Ammar Rizwan on Unsplash

There is a video game about a child slowly dying of cancer.

It is, admittedly, an unexpected premise for a game, but it mixes actual audio of a terminally ill 5-year-old named Joel interacting with his parents and brother, along with stunning animations produced after his death.

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“That Dragon, Cancer”harnesses the immersive power of modern video games, while teasing the illusion of control. You move through the world of Joel’s family, but you do not change it. In that sense it is the opposite of a traditional video game. You travel around and watch the characters interact, spurring them on to their next moments—from playful walks in the park to unconsolable nights while the medicines torture as they try in vain to heal. But you are there to bear witness, not to save. The cancer exists and it will soon enough consume. There is nothing to defeat. No strategy or skill or secret combination of buttons pressed will overcome it. The controller is an illusion. To play the game is to lose it.

The controller is an illusion. To play the game is to lose it.

In one scene you take on the viewpoint of Joel’s dad as he cradles his son in his arms through the night on the hospital room couch. The monitors slowly beep and the sterile lights from the hall pour in as Joel lays silently, curled up against your chest. You feel viscerally the anguish and the instinct to never, ever let go. To fight with every ounce of your being for this child who deserves so much more. To love these strangers in the midst of their dark night.

I could not help but feel it is a deeply Catholic game. We would move mountains to offer a moment of relief to Joel and his family, but when the mountains will not budge, there is still dignity in the pain. The grief may not be beautiful, but recognizing the courage it takes to bear it is. Before solidarity there must always be vulnerability. How else can we learn the reality of such a deeply human aspect of life if we are not willing to watch, listen, even play along, when someone says, this is my story?

Not long ago I tried to imagine what someone would see if they tried to play against the dragons of my own life. It may sound egotistical to imagine a video game of one’s life. But I promise you: Nothing would terrorize me more than letting you walk around so many of these memories I keep locked away.

If you were to boot up your computer and load an interactive version of my life, I think it would open on a middle-school lunch table. Linoleum floors, long particle-board tables, a stage lines one wall. You see me seated, surrounded by boys. They speak crudely of which girls are the hottest and who is out of whose league. I quietly move around the contents of my brown-bag lunch, occasionally forcing a smile and laughing when it seems like the right time.

Nothing would terrorize me more than letting you walk around so many of these memories I keep locked away.

“Patrick,” one of the boys leading the conversation calls. “Who do you like?”

“Oh,” I laugh nervously. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t like anyone?” the boy scoffs. “What’s wrong with you?” There are no chuckles now, only stares.

“I guess I like Claire,” I say.

“Well yeah, so does everyone,” the boy rolls his eyes. Then he yells.

“Hey Claire! Claire! Would you go out with Patrick?” The entire lunchroom falls silent, and for a moment, in the awkwardness clutching your gut through the screen it feels like she just might shrug her shoulders and say yes.

“Naw!” She calls out from two tables over and turns back around to her meal.

The hum of the room picks right back up but slowly fades out as you see me get up and walk out. Before walking into the bathroom you see me pause and look back, gazing at a boy with dusty brown hair and square shoulders. Then I close the door behind me and sink to the ground in one of the stalls.

•••

In the next scene, you would find me sitting on my parents bed. The sheets are perfectly tucked and tightly hug the queen-size mattress. A woman, my mother, sits against a set of pillows and my father is poised on the edge of a chair in the corner. The door is shut, but the conversation still happens in whispers, unfolding slowly.

“If I could take away this pain from you I would,” my mother says. “I would do anything. I would live these attractions myself, if it meant you would no longer have to.”

“If I could take away this pain from you I would,” my mother says. “I would do anything.”

You see me look at her, then slowly look away. The view would pull back to an overhead shot and just rest there as the three slowly breathe. You hear my sniffles as I stare at the carpet.

“What would make it any better? What do you want?” my mother asks. There is a hint of exasperation in her voice, and you feel it yourself. Why won’t he respond? You think. Say something.Anything. Why would it be so hard to say what you want?

Finally, after enough time that you are tempted to turn off the game and walk away, you hear, “I just wish I could tell somebody.”

“What is it anybody else’s business if you are attracted to the same sex?” my father asks.

Another exhausting pause.

“I’m just tired of lying.”

•••

Next, you see me asleep on the couch. Older now, maybe 20. A college textbook rests on my chest and pumpkin decorations sit around the room. There is a glow and a crackle coming from the fireplace that enchants and feels instantly like home. You hear voices from somewhere offscreen and the view pans out over the top of the couch into the kitchen where my grandfather and my mother are talking. They do not seem to realize I am just one room over, and their voices slowly wrest me from the nap.

“It could be so much worse, though,” my mother says. “He could have run off to San Francisco or some godforsaken place.”

The focus zooms back in on me, tears streaming down my face. I grab the pillow from under my head and wrap it down tight over my ears. Through the muffle you hear, “At least he’s not one of those gays.” I place my hand over my mouth to suffocate any noises, and the room continues to glow warm.

•••

Now you see me sitting outside a church, on a bench with a priest in a roman collar. It is dusk and there are fireflies flickering in the church’s courtyard. The priest is older and sits slightly hunched, his head tilted aside to look me in the eyes.

“Well,” the priest says, “I think you’re brave, Patrick.”

“I don’t,” I reply.

“Not many have chosen to be faithful to the church like you.”

I look up at him. “Maybe I’m just too scared to do anything else.”

The priest smiles and shakes his head. “Why do you say that?”

“Everyone knows me as the guy who went to seminary,” I reply. “Who gave talks and was Mr. Pious-Church-Guy. I would lose everything, everyone I know, if I change that. Sometimes I wonder if I’m faithful or just terrified of what I would lose if I followed my conscience.”

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m faithful or just terrified of what I would lose if I followed my conscience.”

The priest does not give this much thought before saying: “I think you’re selling yourself short. You’re a good man. You’ve helped a lot of people.”

I sit in silence. The priest presses on, “Don’t you think that matters?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. I’m just saying if people knew who were really sitting next to them at Mass they might treat us different. A little less quick to call us inherently disordered and a bit more willing to understand why someone who feels the same way as they do about their wife or husband but about someone of the same sex might act upon those desires.”

The priest pauses at this, nods, and says: “If people knew you had these attractions they might not demonize you so much for it. And you think you have some kind of duty to show them?”

“I am just tired of being called disgusting for feeling the same way as everyone else.”

“I’m celibate,” he responds, maybe a bit defensively. “And most people don’t understand that. Most, if they’re honest, think it’s weird.”

I shake my head, “You’re a hero around here, Father. When was the last time you had a night of the week a family wasn’t begging you to come over for dinner?”

“That’s more exhausting than I think you give it credit,” the priest tries to joke.

I do not give up. But there is hurt in my voice this time. “Gay people aren’t even allowed to donate blood in this country. That’s what most people think of us. Not that we are a little weird. That we are toxic. It’s not that people don’t want us to get married. They say we are not even capable of it. The whole point of your celibacy is that your sexuality is good and you are offering it to the church. The whole point of mine is that I have nothing to offer.”

•••

The next scene is an empty chapel at sunset. You wander around the rows of wooden pews until you find me on the floor in the back, sitting cross-legged, a journal on my lap. You come over and sit down next to me, but I do not look up. Words appear on the screen as I journal.

I don’t understand, God. The words write steady but are far from polished. I’ve tried so hard to do this right.How many times have I asked you to take this pain from me?Or to give me the strength to bear it?I don’t feel like I am bearing it.I am drowning.I am alone.

Everything in me is dying to fall in love, so how is it that I am only capable of being alone?

You see me set down my pen and a teardrop falls on the word alone, smearing it and making it run down the screen.

Everything in me is dying to fall in love, so how is it that I am only capable of being alone?A woman could never love me.Not the real me.And I am not allowed to love a man.Because it is disordered. As am Iintrinsically.How is that made in your image?

The screen fades to black and one final sentence scrawls on the screen. How am I supposed to survive life if I am incapable of love?

•••

I have often been told that my sexuality is worth the pain, for in its repression it can purchase paradise. A straight afterlife awaits me if only I would act the part in this one.

To be honest, I have theological and philosophical issues with this position. But more than that, I have an emotional one. For so often I am told this line by my fellow Catholics who know not and care less about the weight of the burden they ask their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to carry. We are an abstraction. Something the Catechism speaks about, not someone they speak with. Known of, though not known.

I wonder what you would feel if you knew me. If you saw what the lives you ask us to lead are actually like.

As silly as a video game feels, I wish I could break open my life and give my fellow Catholics an immersive look at what it was like to believe I was incapable of romantic love and partnership, unable to raise a child and unfit for a family—how deep that wound cuts your soul and affects every corner of your life.

Would you care enough to witness it, even if you could not change it? At least then I would no longer be an abstraction. You would know me. You would have the opportunity to care about my struggles and sit with me in my pain.

And you might even understand if I say I cannot do this anymore. That I believe my sexuality is not evil but normal. You might even hear me tell my story and see it not as an attack on the church but as a deeper embrace of her.

I wonder what you would feel if you knew me. If you saw what the lives you ask us to lead are actually like. If you got to know the real us, the gay Catholics already all around you.

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Terrance Wagner
2 months ago

Patrick, How beautiful this is written. THANK YOU

Carlos Orozco
2 months ago

Since the gay agenda and its politics are far more important in so many "thinking Catholic" circles than talking about, say, the Rosary during October, allow me to be counter-cultural and inform many that today is NATIONAL COMING OUT... as a Conservative Day.

Stanley Kopacz
2 months ago

Everybody's a conservative. They only differ in what they want to conserve.

Colin Jory
2 months ago

Stanley, that is a most perceptive and true comment.

John Patrick Riley
2 months ago

Well, NO, because the "I am gay" position in the question simply isn't true. "Gay" is a label, either self adopted or imposed by the prevailing secular culture. Although not as nasty as pejorative labels imposed by others, it is reductionist, irrational, and in its most popular understanding, absurd. NO ONE is "born gay," "made by God that way," or entitled to any other confusing and self deceptive language a person dealing with same sex attraction uses to understand, at best, and justify, at worst, activity which violates the natural law. Chastity, as a natural virtue, applies to everyone according to their state in life. Love, in charitable, romantic, conjugal, and other forms is a universal in human interaction. But sodomy, oral, anal, heterosexual or homosexual, is an unnatural act because it focuses on physical sexual behavior that does not respect the complementarity of male and female sexuality, including simple anatomy. In a faith context, or outside of it, this natural law applies TO EVERYONE. No person, made in the image and likeness of the Creator, is intrinsically disordered, but a variety of now commonly accepted behaviors clearly are. The sex soaked, pornographic, and anything goes popular culture is based in this fundamental misunderstanding of human nature and sexuality. Otherwise faithful and practicing Catholics like Mr. Gothman, as well as Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc., and people of no faith perspective at all, should not reduce their self identity to any sexual attraction, no matter how much attention, emotion and energy they have invested in it, too often in reaction to the misunderstanding, and lack of charity, of others about it. The increasingly bizarre extension of self identities, and letters, in the again self imposed label of LGBTQ---community is indicative of the increasing confusion and deception. Male or female individuals should be addressed by name as individuals, not as Xs or non-binary, gender non-specific persons, or whatever new label is crated next for any of them.

Leslie Mills
2 months ago

This is the correct answer to this whole situation. We all have crosses to bear. Being attracted to the same sex is a burden, but so is the urge to drink for a recovering alcoholic. People put way too much emphasis on having a sexual relationship. ANYONE who has sex outside of marriage is commiting sin under the 6th commandment. There are Catholic support groups to go to just like for an addict. I am sorry you are suffering, but your reward in heaven will be great if you stay celibate.

Frank T
2 months ago

To JP Riley- What an appallingly stupid and ultimately short-sighted attempt at rationality you have made.
And old Catholics whine about young people having no use for religion? Please.
The inability to adapt to what we now know about human sexuality has ultimately killed the Church.
Listening to an old drone sermonize about "natural law" when they have no idea of what they are talking about, has killed the Church.
From the Curia, closeted and clueless about human sex and adult relations to the now-vacant pews, My goodness, how the Church has failed.

Doug Hammerich
2 months ago

People such as Mr Riley are the root cause of so many otherwise faithful Catholics fleeing the Church. And the welcoming Episcopal Church is the beneficiary.

Tim Donovan
2 months ago

Patrick, with all humility in recognition that everyone experiences being different from the norm in manifold ways, I have walked in your shoes. Like you, I'm Catholic and gay. I very much can identify with and sympathize with your struggles. When I was a boy growing up in the late 1960's and as an adolescent in the late 1970's, I was frequently called a painful name, "sissy," and then by the offensive term " faggot. " These hurtful terms were used by my peers (of different faiths and those of no particular faith, not only Catholics). They correctly assumed that I was gay years before I revealed my sexual orientation. Yes, it can be lonely not having a wife or husband or children. But I was fortunate to be able to find meaning in life and love from others in several ways. In 1981, when he was 19 and in college my good friend was understandably dismayed when he was told by his 17 year old girlfriend , a high school senior, that she was pregnant. Despite realizing the likely impending difficulties that they faced, she gave birth to their son one month after graduation at age 18. (My friends got married nine months later; with much work, he became a mechanical engineer, and she became a pharmacist as they raised their family of four children. As someone who always loved children, I was thrilled to help raise their son and three other children over the years. At age 19, I began work as an aide caring for disabled adults. I enjoyed the work so much that I chose to become a Special Education teacher who instructed children with brain damage and physical disabilities and/or behavior disorders. After six challenging but enjoyable years, I left teaching but continued working with disabled adults in different capacities, and volunteered as a Board Member of an advocacy agency for the disabled. I also found happiness as an alternative to marriage and biological children by helping my brother and sister raise their four children.
I take it that Patrick has remained faithful to church teaching and has remained celibate. I admire him for his courage in avoiding temptation and being blessed by the Holy Spirit with the gift of fortitude, in imitation of our Lord, Jesus. I'm 56, and have been blessed with the ability to remain celibate for most of my life. However, many years ago during times of loneliness and frustration I had sex withmen, one of whom was a former co-worker and friend. However, I regretted my acts, and received forgiveness and consolation through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However, I still remain friends with Anthony, with whom I had a sexual relationship. I readily admit to being a very imperfect Catholic who struggles occasionally with the temptation to view pornography and other sins (primarily impatience with friends and other residents in the quality nursing home where I've lived for three years). Consequently, I go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation each month, and then feel worthy to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. I'm fortunate that my parish pastor is kind enough to visit me each month for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, the Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick. I've also found companionship by going on outings in the community with my family to restaurants, shopping centers, and going to my sister's_house to watch movies. My Mom also is,loving enough to visit me twice weekly, catching a,can or being driven by family members (she's_never driven). With due modesty, I believe that I hopefully(!) am a decent follower of Jesus by helping my friends and other residents with their personal needs. I believe that despite our imperfections, that Jesus is merciful, and that if we do our best to try to love God and our neighbors that we may receive the help we all require to lead lives of service that can bring happiness. As I believe we are all called to do, I pray daily throughout each day for various intentions. My favorite prayers are the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles Creed, the Act of Contrition, the Memorae, and Anima Christi. My favorite liturgies are Stations of the Cross (when I try to reflect on the passion of Christ, keeping in mind his victory over death) and Benediction. Each month I receive a modest sum of cash from our nursing home/rehabilitation center Business Office, and contribute to a variety of secular and Catholic Charities. Undoubtedly, this long post has led many people to believe that I 'm "conservative." However , as my late Dad observed, "conservative" and " liberal " are political terms. Ultimately, each Catholic in my view. is called to follow the teachings of Jesus, as interpreted by the Church. The Ten Commandments are the basic laws prescribed.by God. Jesus was known for his mercy and forgiveness of sinners. I believe that frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when one honestly admits to one's failings, receives guidance from the priest, commits to amending one's life, and performs the penance given by the priest, is both necessary for one's spiritual health and worthwhile. At Mass we join in the community of our sisters and brothers in Christ, here the word of God, and if we are worthy, receive Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. However, politically, as a long-time Democrat for more than 25 years ago reluctantly registered as a Republican several years ago, I still agree with most "typical" Democratic party policies. I oppose capital punishment (and have long been a pen pal with a man serving life imprisonment for a serious crime; I believe that being a devout Jehovah's Witness that he's reformed his life. I occasionally send him modest sums for his personal needs). I support stringent gun control laws, and reasonable laws and policies to protect our environment. I occasionally contribute to a pro-life environmental group, the Catholic Climate Covenant. I also support reasonable laws to assist the millions of Americans in need. These include among others people who are disabled, homeless, senior citizens, veterans, victims of human trafficking, immigrants, people who are mentally ill, and those addicted to drugs. Although I 'm not a pacifist, I admire their convictions. I support war only as a last resort after all diplomatic efforts have been exhausted. Deliberately killing civilians is seriously immoral, and the use of nuclear weapons is monstrous. I also support increased foreign aid for impoverished nations, both humanitarian assistance, as well as assistance with economic development and the development of the nation's infrastructure (roads, airports, and basic services such as schools and hospitals). Although as a gay man I certainly want gay people and others who aren't heterosexuals to be treated with respect and compassion, and welcomed into each parish, along with Pope Francis I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Finally, as a matter of human rights, I support the restoration of legal protection to the unborn. Although.there have always been philosophical discussions about "who is a person?" the science of biology unequivocally confirms that a human being comes into existence at conception /fertilization. Because of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton, the violence of abortion is legal for any reason up until the time the fetus (which means "young one" in latin ) is viable. There are nearly one million innocent unborn human beings killed annually in our nation. I believe that it's important for Catholics and other people of goodwill to if possible financially support the hundreds of crisis pregnancy centers nationwide which provide pregnant women and their babies with practical, compassionate assistance. When I 'm able, I contribute to a homeless shelter in my suburban Philadelphia county for pregnant women and their children, that also provides other services. Lastly, I contribute to "Mom's House." This is a group of about six homes which provide free quality day care for low income pregnant women so that they can complete their educations .

Sandor Gyetvai
2 months ago

Tim, this is one of the most thoughtful and insightful posts I have seen on this topic. You show through your own experience, but also with a solid understanding of our Lord Jesus and the teachings of His Church, how we navigate the moral life with all our imperfections and failures. When considering the topic of persons who struggle with being gay, I often think of the man or woman in a marriage which has become difficult or even very dull who meets a very charming and attentive person outside of their marriage. A person whom they are attracted to both physically and emotionally. Using the logic of the dominant gay advocacy groups, this married person should be allowed to commit adultery. After all, they are lonely, desiring physical or emotional fulfillment, are in pain because they don't have that etc.... But this TOO would be a mortal sin to act on that temptation. The 'gay' man or woman, is no less culpable of mortal sin when they act on and justify their physical sexual acts, than the example of a married person I give above. Of course, in both cases Jesus is merciful and offers forgiveness to the contrite heart. The main difference is you don't have personalities in the Church or the culture advocating for adultery in cases where a person feels 'unfulfilled' in their marriage, but inside Holy Mother Church, we have shepherds and lay people who are decieving many souls by advocating for allowance of mortal sin in the case of those who are same sex attracted.
Often those who advocate for the gay lifestyle in our culture and the church claim that the Church's teaching is condemning homosexual persons to a loveless life, but is this true? The church does not forbid fraternal (or sororal for women) love amongst people of the same sex, but in fact encourages it. Tim, in your wonderful post, you show how a holy love can be practiced and bring much fulfillment to persons who are same sex attracted, or in other situations in which they are morally prevented from engaging in sexual behavior with particular persons. The Church's call is always to elevate love, to focus on the higher love, and people like you Tim, can teach all Catholics (homosexual and heterosexual, married and single etc...) about the true goal and object of love. Thank you for YOUR courage, your LOVE and your fidelity to Christ and His Church! You are a model Christian to all us Heterosexual men and women who also struggle with living the moral life in our sexuality, our charity and our fidelity!

Tim Donovan
2 months ago

Thank you.for your kind words, Sandor. I very much appreciate your post. I know that there are many within our Church who favor same-sex relationships as well as same-sex marriage. In fact, I have at least two close family members whom I love and respect who favor same-sex relationships. I can only affirm the teaching of the Church; I do have sympathy for gay people, as I realize that it can be a tremendous struggle to resist the temptation to have gay sex (or for anyone to have sex including heterosexuals). As noted, years ago I have into my feelings of lust, borne of loneliness and emotional pain. I do commend the author for his honesty, as well as for his apparent commitment to being celibate. However, I have found that a life of prayer and service to our brothers and sisters in need gives life meaning and is fulfilling the teachings of Jesus to "love your neighbor as yourself" (and there are many people who have much greater problems than me; I have personal knowledge, living in a nursing home/rehabilitation center). There are a, fair number of men and women who have dementia, or who are severely physically disabled, or who are very elderly. A few people that I know (including my friend who is one of my roommates) are mentally ill. There also is a new staff person, a woman who is an activity assistant who has told us that she is gay (she mentioned that she has a wife). Again, she is very kind, but I don't condone same-sex marriage. All the best to you, Sandor. Truly, although I try my best, I question whether I deserve to be called a man of "courage" who is a "model Christian." Take care.

Tim Donovan
2 months ago

Our Church has many divisions and problems, but Jesus promised that "...The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." ( Matthew 16:18). For some years in my early twenties (I'm now 56) I seriously doubted God's existence. (although having been raised by two good Catholic parents and having attended 12 years of Catholic schools) I perhaps ironically still believed in the moral teachings of our Church. However, after exploring the beliefs of other Christian denominations and attending some Protestant worship services, I decided that if there is a God, His Son, Jesus Christ, founded the Catholic Church. Like Patrick, I.also have experienced some serious difficulties due to my sexual orientation. I also have had some very sad, even tragic events occur in my life. One aunt was catatonic, and from the age of 15 and until she died of breast cancer in her 60's, lived in a state mental hospital. Her mother, my Grandmother, was very devoted to her, and for years before my parents were married, she would take several buses from Philadelphia to outside Wilmington, Delaware to the hospital, and bring her daughter new clothes, good food, and spend time with my aunt. After my parents were married, we as a family would drive to visit my aunt. After my Grandmom died, my parents and me continued to visit my aunt and take her out to restaurants. 1994 was a particularly painful year for me and my family. Another aunt with whom I was close had unsuccessful surgery for a malignant brain tumor. My parents and me, with the assistance of hospice staff, cared for her at my parents home (she was a widow without children) until she died peacefully after being in a coma for several days after about 3 months of illness. Another aunt died of cancer early in the summer of 1994. My Dad, who for the last seven years of his life had spent considerable time in the hospital with complications from diabetes had congestive heart failure in late June, was hospitalized, and several weeks later (after my sister had her first baby in the same Catholic hospital) went into a coma for one month, and died peacefully. Finally, in October, 1994, a co-worker and good friend committed suicide by hanging herself. This is a long way of making the point that in a strange sense I fully regained my faith in God. I decided that despite the suffering of my loved ones, that for reasons unknown to humans, God permits suffering. Jesus suffered and died for the sins of humanity, but defeated death and rose in victory to again allow human beings the opportunity to enjoy eternal life. With the joy that came with the birth of my niece in 1994, in the midst of great difficulty and grief, God, as the author of life, made known His will that new human life is a supreme good that, even when complicated by difficulties, makes life worthwhile.
Yes, some Catholics for different reasons are leaving the Church. As stated before, I can in a real sense understand doubt in God. However, the Church despite imperfections throughout the centuries that will surely continue, will continue until the end of time. Sadly, according to reputable opinion surveys in recent years, the number of nonbelievers in our nation has greatly increased, and the number of people who practice Christianity (or many other faiths as well) has declined. I certainly am no sociologists, but from reading I understand that religious faith and practice in Europe (in most nations) has declined dramatically. I believe that the number of faithful Catholics has actually increased in many African nations and some other "Third World" nations. Regarding the comment that the Episcopal Church is the "beneficiary" of Catholics "fleeing" the Church, I respectfully disagree. In an article by Jeffrey Walton (September 22, 2016) which I read on the internet, he asserted that " declines in Episcopal Church membership continue a downward spiral that began in the early 2000's. Updated statistics made available (this week) by the Episcopal Church Office of Research show a denomination continuing a gradual, uninterrupted decline in 2015. The U. S. based denomination shed 37,669 members in 2015, a decline of -2.1%... ". I don't mean this to be critical of the Episcopal Church as such (although I happen to disagree with their church position which favors the legal "right" to kill the unborn by abortion under most circumstances). The Church has every right to hold any view they desire on any matter. However, I think it's very unfortunate because up until 1958, the Church taught that "Abortion and infanticide are to be condemned." This mirrors a statement from the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council who affirmed that "Abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes."

Chester Mealer
2 months ago

> The inability to adapt to what we now know about human sexuality has ultimately killed the Church.
Like the fact that it takes a man and a woman to make a child and that no other combination can sexually reproduce? (This is what natural law means for sexuality that sexuality only makes sense in this context.)

Dolores Pap
2 months ago

Some of these responses are so cold, cruel and horrific in their indifference to another person's suffering that I ask myself why anyone at all would belong a a church that negates the essential goodness and value of every human being, based on what they consider 'deviant' sexual orientation.When a religion indoctrinates people into thinking that they are unacceptable/sinful and need to change in order to be a valued member of that church, then I would argue that there's something missing in that religion, such a love , and heart?

J Brookbank
2 months ago

Dolores, I am with you in disbelief at the coldness and indifference expressed in so many of the comments. Some commenters have asked why there is attention given to this topic. Their comments are almost certainly one answer: the Church has contributed significantly to the very behavior exhibited in these comments, and I believe some priests recognize that they have a Christian obligation to counteract the ugliness to which the RCC has contributed. I am praying for the day the Church quits using the language of ordered and disordered because of the license those words seem to give to people to be ugly.

Chris Gration
2 months ago

I read most of your answer but frankly it got boring. You seem to have a poor understanding of natural law and science. Natural law is inferred from creation. If diversity - in sexuality, gender, or ability/disability) - is part of creation (whether by genetics, epigenetics or nurture) - then it is our obligation to discern God’s purpose and infer natural law. Needless to say as scientific understanding changes, this has implications for natural law.

And it’s not a straight line relationship... otherwise we end up with reductionist absurdities. Like if God had meant us to fly etc etc

There is a profound theological view that says diversity is fundamental to Creation , starting immediately with particle wobbles after the Big Bang.

Finally I would say that choosing to use the identity description someone chooses for themselves can be a sign of welcome and respect. It’s not ontological; just courteous.

Dionys Murphy
1 month 4 weeks ago

"NO ONE is "born gay," "made by God that way,""

Except many people are. Born gay. Or as Christ would say, born Human.

Ron Chandonia
2 months ago

What would make the hurt and sorrow of being different go away? Changing the wording in the Catechism? Offering same-sex wedding ceremonies at mass? Compelling Catholic agencies to provide children for adoption to same-sex couples? Or would none of that really take away the hurt and sorrow of being different . . . or the challenge of accepting that difference and molding it into a virtue leading to eternal life?

Trent Shannon
2 months ago

For me, not calling the action disordered. Is heterosexual action outside of marriage disordered? At the least, consider homosexual actions on par with extramarital sex, not the uber egregious sin its considered as

Revisiting the "natural law" and the scriptural position, looking at it as a product of its time, and determening if it still fits with the modern understanding of psychology, biology, etc

Looking at the gethsemenal journey of gay/bisexual catholics - the innocent judged by the high priest, Pilate; the scourging, the crowning of thorns - just calling it a cross to bear skips the authoritarian decision (natural law) we face; the mental anguish of being born against that decision, the bullying and public mocking by public figures, castigation from the pulpit etc

One of your suggestions is good too, permitting adoption by married same sex couples.

My two cents

J Brookbank
2 months ago

Patrick, thank you. I can't say more than that at this moment. This gorgeous piece of writing takes my breath away and my heart hurts. I hear you and I see you.

Paul Hierholzer
2 months ago

Patrick: Your sexuality is not evil, and you are loved. I admire your loyalty to your church, and I pray you find the person of your dreams.

David Mollon
2 months ago

Patrick, your writing is achingly beautiful and moving. I now feel that I do know you, or at least some of the pain your faith has encountered. I am humbled by your truth. You are made in God’s image. God loves you. You are not disordered, intrinsically or otherwise. I am compelled by my faith to love you. The Jesus I know would not and does not deprive you of the joy of loving who you love. The Jesus I know would comfort you and let you live your truth. May God bless you and hold you in his hands.

Irene Baldwin
2 months ago

Thank you for speaking out.

Peggy Rowe-Linn
2 months ago

Thank you for your honesty. Chastity pains all of us at different times in our lives and for different reasons. I endorse what John Patrick Riley says and add: When did it become more appropriate to define our entire being by our sexual identity? I am so much more than my sexuality or my sexual attraction. I am a child of God. I am created to be a visible sign of Christ’s love on earth—nothing more and, most importantly, nothing less.

Tim O'Leary
2 months ago

Patrick - very moving writing. I know many people who have been diagnosed with cancer and have asked God why them. Sometimes, answers are very hard to even imagine. Have you ever tried to go to a Courage meeting? There are people there who have walked in your shoes more closely than you know. Even if you are not sympathetic, it might be worth a visit, just to see how others are handling their cross. Here is the link http://www.seattlearchdiocese.org/CFF/FamilyLife/Courage.aspx.

Steven Holmes
2 months ago

I fee like i am missing something that everyone else gets.

I am missing why sexuality and sexual identity has become THE topic of the day. Why is there SO much real estate being occupied by discussions of the pain and suffering of being gay and catholic? This is not to dismiss the pain of this experience - it is, of course, very real. But being gay and Catholic is not the same as being a woman, whose core identity is also diminished by Catholic teaching and practice. And, speaking as a survivor of abuse by a priest, there is a pain and humiliation that is hard to describe and just as intense and debilitating as anything experienced by a gay catholic. So why the emphasis at the moment on gay experience of suffering? It is everywhere in the church - especially on this site. I truly want to know why. Can anyone shed light on this?

Tim O'Leary
2 months ago

Steven - I also noticed that over 50% of articles at Jesuit America these days have a homosexual theme. Like the Seinfeld meme goes "not that there's anything wrong with that." The suffering for the proverbial 2-5% is the most important thing for these Jesuits right now. All other suffering must take a number.

hannahmariamurphy@gmail.com
2 months ago

I’m sorry for the abuse of all persons; but right now the focus is on this community because these folks are literally being murdered for being who they are. I get that some people may not be aware of this as much as others; and some are commenting in kind naivety.
But some of you folks are so interesting! Really, I just can’t get enough of the narrow minded nonsense coming out of your casting-the-first-stone mouths. The reason that sexuality is such a huge topic now is because certain groups of people have been dehumanized and disenfranchised for a loooong time now; so yeah, when people start listening, there’s gonna be a lot to say. Let me help you out: remember the days when blacks were not allowed in places (and even our religious orders rejected people of color)? Well,
you remember when America started listening to this persecuted population? And they started sharing their experiences? And then all of the sudden the country was like “oh yea! I guess we gotta treat them with human dignity!” And still all these years later people of color have to demand the God given respect that white people take for granted. THIS is kinda like the other. The LGBTQIA+ (oh yes, I wrote all the letters so deal), deserves to be heard. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, change the station...like literally, stop reading a Jesuit publication! And probably maybe you might want to change your faith because Pope Francis is taking us on a new kind of path here...redirecting our Church so those of us who love and respect all our sisters and brothers can make our ways to Heaven without having to account for the sin of casting out His children.

You’re just mean people with nothing better to do than make unkind comments on a story that clearly was a risk to write. Go to confession and reconcile for real.

Steven Holmes
2 months ago

Hannah Maria Murphy

So are we naive for asking the question, or mean? Now I'm more confused. Please accept apologies for my original question, which seemed to incite something unintended. I will not leave the publication, or the religion though - since you own neither, like I don't.

I am a Jesuit trained graduate of a divinity school. I am a former theology teacher. I am surrounded by close, deeply loved gay friends and family. I am an ardent supporter of Francis. I am a survivor of (violent) childhood sexual abuse. I am entitled to ask questions respectfully without being told to go away for asking them. Thanks for the reply, but I'm staying.

J Brookbank
2 months ago

HMM --- I appreciate very much your thoughts about the parallel btwn the journey of the African American community toward inclusion (a journey which, as you say, incomplete).

It is understandably easy for dominant communities to forget that they too influenced the language used to describe their communities...for the simple reason that dominant communities are dominant and, thus, commonly used terms ARE the preferred terms of the most powerful (and, often but not always, most populous groups).

It is rough going for almost every human group when we learn that we are no longer "the deciders" and our historical precedents are no longer "the final word". That is what is happening to conservative white straight American Catholics, male and female. We white straight European American Catholics no longer hold sway like we used to. And many of us are behaving are handling it in a wildly unChristian way (as the responses to Patrick's piece demonstrate).

Great points, HMM

Greg Heck
2 months ago

Indeed. And I wonder, why now?

Dionys Murphy
1 month 4 weeks ago

"Why is there SO much real estate being occupied by discussions of the pain and suffering of being gay and catholic?"

Because there's so much pain and suffering for Catholics who are gay? Because these people are being murdered simply for being gay? Should there be more space devoted to straight white males who.. don't suffer institutionally..?

hannahmariamurphy@gmail.com
2 months ago

Thank God for people who are brave enough to speak when their community treats them in ways that are not Christ-like at all. I’ve thought about leaving the Church because the LGBTQIA+ community is not accepted (and I’m a heterosexual); so I can’t imagine the way you have been made to feel. And thank you for not taking the position of “being gay is not bad, but acting on your sexual wants/needs as a gay human being is bad.” God gives us sexuality to share with one another- I can’t imagine God giving you your sexuality as a test to get into Heaven. Hopefully Francis keeps steering the course toward total inclusion of this amazing population of people we’ve treated with cruelty...hey maybe one day we’ll even have total celebration! The only thing keeping me in the Church is the Eucharist and, as a friend so beautifully told me, the hope that the arc of justice will one day tilt back in Christ’s true direction. Thanks again for sharing your story.

Felicity Douay
2 months ago

I’m a Catholic mother, reading this while I rock my baby, and I set my phone down to pray for you in your struggle and your pain. You’re right—most people like me don’t know (rather, don’t think they know) many people like you. I wish more of my friends would speak candidly about this, because I know that others with this cross are among my friends, though most are silent about it. This piece goes a small way to helping me understand why. You say that you think most of people [most churchgoers?] think you have nothing to offer. I think you do, and some small part of it is on this page.

Thank you for speaking. I hear you, and I want to offer whatever my encouragement could possibly mean to you. Peace to you in the Lord - you and all who fight this battle will be ever more intentionally in my prayers.

Trish Sullivan Vanni
2 months ago

Patrick, you are a beautiful and authentic writer and a powerful witness. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, the image of a God as diverse and vast as s/he is loving and forgiving. Thank you for telling your story, thank you for your open heart, thank you for your struggle of faithfulness. Know that an embrace awaits you in any of the Churches of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, of which I am a part.

Michael Barberi
2 months ago

Thank you Patrick for this honest and courageous article. As Pope Francis has said in paraphrase: You are made in the image and likeness of God. He made you this way and He loves you, and I love you.

Your journey is one of the most difficult because the Catholic Church tells you:
> that you have a intrinsic disorder,
> you cannot love another person of the same sex in a permanent, faithful and loving relationship (civil marriage. Christian-nonCatholic Church marriage, Jewish marriage etc) unless you live as brother and sister.
> you must live a lifetime of sexual abstinence for your salvation, full stop.

The problem is that at this time the Church believes that heterosexual is the order of God. To be otherwise is an intrinsic disorder despite what most socio-scientific organizations say. The Church and most heterosexuals can't imagine that homosexuals can be attracted sexually and emotionally to a member of the same sex as heterosexuals are attracted sexually and emotionally to a member of the opposite sex. For heterosexuals to commit a homosexual act is an abomination. It is unnatural and immoral. Of course it is. The problem is that it is not unnatural for homosexuals in a permanent, faithful and loving relationship to love as heterosexuals do.

Here is another problem: The Church gives every heterosexual "a choice" between remaining single or getting married. Even a priest who takes a vow before God, can get a dispensation, get married to a woman and enjoy sexual relations. This is not the case for those born homosexual. They have only one choice: to live a lifetime of sexual abstinence.

One day, the Church will change it's treatment and pastoral theology of homosexual Catholics. In the meantime Patrick, follow your informed conscience, pray frequently, seek priestly and moral theological advice (especially those who minister to the homosexual community), and be joyful that you do not have an intrinsic disorder. You are normal and loved by God.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Chester Mealer
2 months ago

> The problem is that it is not unnatural for homosexuals in a permanent, faithful and loving relationship to love as heterosexuals do.

This is a terrible attempt to (incorrectly) hijack the term "natural" and muddle the truth about what natural law really is.

> The problem is that at this time the Church believes that heterosexual is the order of God.

At this time. As well as from the beginning. It's a truth of creation not a temporary situation.

Michael Barberi
2 months ago

Chester,
Please consider the following that I hope will clarify my remarks about the natural law and homosexuality. Nevertheless, these concepts and arguments cannot be fully explicated in short blog comments. I suggest you read "The Sexual Person" by Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler...or a more recent book by the authors called 'Sexual Ethics'.

NATURAL LAW
The term 'natural' that I used in my comments refers to the natural inclination/orientation. In other words, heterosexuals have a natural sexual attraction and inclination to members of the opposite sex, as homosexuals have a natural sexual attraction and inclination to members of the same sex. Both heterosexuals and homosexuals do not 'choose' their sexual inclination/orientation. IMO, they are born this way.

My use here is not hijacking the truth about the natural law. Natural law as a moral argument justifying the teachings about sexual ethics has been dead for many decades now. For example, the Church attempted to use the natural law to justify Humanae Vitae, namely the immorality of contraception. However this argument failed because few could justify that the sexual facilities were created by God to be used only for its claimed end, namely, procreation. This argument was called physicalism. In truth, from the time of Onan to the invention of the condom, the Church argued that the penis had to used properly to deposit male semen into its proper place (e.g., not on the ground or in a condom). However, this teaching had to change when the pill came along because the penis was being used properly and semen was being deposited in its proper place. Consequently, the Church using HV now argued that it was immoral to prevent the sexual act from achieving its natural end, procreation. This argument failed as Natural Family Planning (NFP) and its acts of plotting ensured that every act of sexual intercource was also not procreative. So, either the pill and NFP were immoral or they were not. When this happened, some theologians formulated a " New Natural Law Theory". Nevertheless, we all know that this failed as well.

MY POINT: The problem is that there has never been a universal theory of natural law with a consistent level of moral content from ancient times to the present. In other words, the theory of natural law has constantly been changing. There were also several theories of natural law that existed at the same times in history that were in conflict with each other. Today theologians have stopped using a theory of natural law to justify various teachings of sexual ethics.

HOMOSEXUALITY
In ancient times, there was no word or concept called homosexuality. All humans were assumed to be heterosexual as this was assumed to be the Natural Order. No one could conceive that many people (2%-5% or more) could be born with a natural inclination/orientation to members of the same sex. In ancient times, homosexual acts were assumed to performed by heterosexuals. These acts were consider 'idolatry' and a 'perversion' of the natural order which was heterosexuality. Therefore, homosexual acts were considered an abomination because of this belief.

MY POINT: The bible and the ancient fathers never considered for a moment the morality of sexual acts within a marriage or a permanent, faithful and loving relationship between members of the same sex (e.g., same sex marriage). My hope is that the Church's current pastoral theology, the pastoral application of the doctrine of marriage and sexual ethics, may change in the future for homosexuals, not the doctrine. For example, using the same pastoral theology and moral principles in Amoris Laetitia which has provided a way that many divorced and remarried might be able to receive Holy Communion under certain conditions.

I hope this was helpful.

J Brookbank
2 months ago

Michael, I agree wholeheartedly with you.

My only quibble --- and I think it is not actually a quibble --- is the idea that the thought of homosexual sex is, for heterosexuals, "an abomination, immoral and unnatural".

All evidence suggests that this view is true only for a minority of Americans AND only for a minority of Catholics.

Most Americans just are not thinking about other people's sex acts. They are thinking about other people as other people, with the attendant reality that most of us people are hard-wired to want to find a lifelong love partner.

CAROLYN GWADZ
2 months ago

Patrick, you are a wonderful writer and your story touches many hearts. I hope you feel loved and encouraged by the many wise and sympathetic comments other readers have posted in response. Someone suggested "finding how others (in a similar situation) are handling their cross". So important to find the right community and support. Someone here has commented that chastity can be challenging for everyone at some point in life, not just gay people. Married people and heterosexual single people also must reckon with this challenging virtue, especially in our present-day culture. No one likes "the cross" that has befallen them, and anyone can suppose that others have it made because they have a partner or children. As a single-again mother of adult children, there have been times when I resented my lot and wasted the opportunity it presents to walk with Christ in my unique way. How rarely do I hear people say, "Life is hard but the Lord has been with me all the way". Jesus promised the kingdom to the poor in spirit, and in our suffering, that is what we are. Jesus keeps that promise and gives us fulfillment of many kinds even within the context of the circumstances we have, which can seem so bitter and unfair. My pastor used the phrase, "the privileged place of suffering", and I thought, "how apt!". Without the trials and thorns of my path, I would never be able to attest to another suffering pilgrim of the faithfulness of God even in the most undesirable straits. It has taken me a long time, a lifetime, to fully appreciate that relationships with others are not the cure for loneliness, but my own relationship with myself and my God. I am also slowly learning that the scorn and disapproval of another person is about them and need not "ruin my day"! Hard lessons to learn in a culture that often sends the opposite message. Patrick, may you find many friends who appreciate how beautiful you are and support you on your journey Home -- and, of course, the "living water that springs up to eternal life", offered to the Samaritan woman at the well. "Ask and you shall receive..." My prayers are with you.

Elissa Roper
2 months ago

Thank you Patrick for this moving article. You have really opened yourself up for encounter and I hope that many people meet you with compassion and - as I feel - some transformation of our hearts. "May we meet as Jesus met."

Colin Jory
2 months ago

I'm an orthodox Catholic, and have always been (and still am) smugly glad I'm not homosexual. The reason I'm glad is precisely because if I were I'd have to bear the burdens and face the problems which Patrick so compellingly explains and impresses.

Paul Perez
2 months ago

Patrick, you have written beautifully. God bless you. I am in agreement with the Church's teaching. But, passing judgment is above my pay grade. All I was put on earth to do is to intend/try to love each person who comes into my life, whether physically or otherwise (like refugees, the poor and the sick, those who suffer discrimination, etc.). Every person. So know that you are loved by someone who happens to agree with the Church's teaching. My guess is that we will have good discussions about this when we get to the other side (if I make it).

Will Niermeyer
2 months ago

I didn't know this. The Catholic Church could learn much from the Anglicans.

alan macdonald
2 months ago

The Anglican Church tried to be everything to everybody. It has become nothing to nobody.

Andrew Wolfe
2 months ago

You really don't say here what you mean by "gay." Some in the gay community insist it only be applied to men sexually active with other men. You don't mention if that's what you mean, or living a chaste life. When you say things like "romantic love and partnership" do you mean engaging physically? If not, why isn't friendship enough for you?

And friendship is extremely important within marriage—marriage is more than sex; and sex itself is more than physical gratification.

Part of what you describe as grievous is the expectations and attitudes of other people. That is certainly a sickness in our society. All descriptions of love involve sexual contact. People who are not same-sex-attracted but who aren't racing to have sex or marriage are also constantly confronted with this—just as your priest friend said—including family and friends urging them to get married. This is itself an intrinsically disordered view of love and it afflicts everyone in our society. For myself, it came when a company VP told me I should be castrated because I had four children with my wife. On the contrary, the Church has given us a view of life as service, not self. And God has given us his example of love as self-sacrifice, not physical intimacy.

Original sin left all of us intrinsically disordered. I have a wide array of disordered affections. That's original sin. It's why I depend on Jesus Christ.

I can't do anything about the suffering you have felt but without an indication of whether you are committed to chastity or not, I don't feel you've given a picture of your situation that allows me to understand it. But of course, I can pray for you and I will.

Richard Bell
2 months ago

God’s will for human sexual conduct is fully expressed in the Seventh Commandment. So, there is one sexual morality for all. Specifically, there is one sexual morality for heterosexuals and homosexuals, and its most general principle is that full expression of sexual desire is permitted only within marriage. God has provided the institution of marriage for all who need to express their sexual desires fully, and God wills that they all avail themselves of marriage. Therefore, it is God’s will that homosexual persons, not only heterosexual persons, marry if they do not have the gift of sexual continency. The Church should implement God’s will by treating homosexual marriage just as it treats heterosexual marriage.

Šime Skelin
2 months ago

Dear Lord, please forgive us our infidelity and immorality. We must pray stronger than ever that our founder blows away Satan's smoke from our Church. After Borgia, our Church wasn't on the edge like these days. I am waiting when Church leadership will claim there is no Hell, Satan, Jesus was a man and all religion and atheism are same if you are "good and politically correct man". Oh God help me, give me strength, courage and hope because I am crying, I am losing my hope and smile because of never powerful Devil's attack on Church from inside and outside and because I am retired soldier with PTSD who is more sensitive on war we are losing fast and secure without brave Cardinals and Bishops who are like parrots who speak only about secularism, politically correctness and they are afraid to act like Catholics. All these "rules" and "laws" are nothing in comparison with our souls and fight for the God, Truth, Church, and society we like to live in. Forgive me my sins and empower us with courage, power, will for sacrifice, with spiritual and other swords and with the understanding that political and judicial system was made by men like many times in history but only God's law is important law. Roman Empire fell down but one Charlemagne and many great Popes rebuilt and made magnificent Europe so God wipe my tears, take this stone from my heart which presses me and suffocates me in despair Heavenly Father please send to us one Charlemagne, Saint Gregory The Great or Urban II who will say white is white, black is black(NO! THIS IS NOT ABOUT RACE!), man is man, woman is a woman, Church is founded by Christ and there is no salvation outside of His Church. It's painful, it's sad, I can't breathe, I can't sleep, tears flow from my eyes, hate overwhelms me sometimes but I pray. God, please lead us to victory through men and women you chose and we need them more than ever. Deus Vult! Ave Maria!

Bev Ceccanti
2 months ago

Amen

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